A key aspect of the awards is that they guarantee the winning artists a place on the Main Programme of the following year’s National Arts Festival.
The winners have been announced for The Standard Bank Young Artists for 2020.
The five groundbreaking artists who make this year’s cut are Blessing Ngobeni (visual art), Nthato Mokgata, also known as Spoek Mathambo, (music), Lulu Mlangeni (dance), Jefferson Tshabalala (theatre), and Sisonke Xonti (jazz).
The Young Artist Awards, sponsored by Standard Bank, are presented by the National Arts Festival Committee to emerging, relatively young South African artists who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their chosen fields but who have not yet achieved national exposure and acclaim.
Designed to encourage the recipients in the pursuit of their careers, a key aspect of the awards is that they guarantee the winning artists a place on the Main programme of the following year’s National Arts Festival.
Apart from a cash prize, each of the winners receive substantial financial backing for their Festival participation, whether this is the mounting of an exhibition or the staging of a production.
Blessing Ngobeni was born in 1985 in a small rural town of Tzaneen in Limpopo. At the age of ten, he moved to Johannesburg where, after a tumultuous decade, he entered the contemporary art scene.
Bringing with him a unique style and a critique of political regimes, Ngobeni made the corruption, incompetence and duplicity of current South African ruling elite the subjects of his art.
In 2011, Ngobeni received the Reinhold Cassirer Award which afforded him a three-month residency at the Bag Factory in Fordsburg, Johannesburg.
During his residency, he interacted with veteran artists David Koloane, Patrick Mautloa and Sam Nhlengethwa who further motivated his aspirations of pursuing art seriously.
Ngobeni also mentors and provides support for young artists through two projects.
The first, in collaboration with the Bag Factory, is the ‘Blessing Ngobeni Studio Art Award’ established in 2017.
The second is called ‘Initiative’ and introduces young artists to the art industry through a series of workshops and culminates in an opportunity for them to participate in a group show.
Nthato Mokgata aka Spoek Mathambo
Mokgata is a musician, artist, producer, rapper, and singer-songwriter. Through his solo career and projects such as Batuk and Fantasma, he has toured the globe extensively. He is also the director of Future Sounds of Mzansi – a documentary exploring South Africa’s cultural landscape, 20-years into democracy.
Lulu Mlangeni is the Creative Assistant at Vuyani Dance Theatre based in Newtown, Johannesburg.
She is the winner of So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 South Africa and was a choreographer for the season 3 show.
Over the years Mlangeni has built a strong career and has travelled to different continents with her offering. Amongst other achievements, Mlangeni is an award winner for The Most Outstanding Female Dancer in Contemporary Style for the Dance Umbrella Festival in 2007. She received the Sophie Mgcina Best Emerging Voice Award at the Naledi Awards.
Tshabalala is a writer, director, performer and the founder and owner of the live arts production house, Kiri Pink Nob Arts.
He merges poetry, hip-hop, comedy and traditional dramatic arts to communicate nuanced and far-reaching stories.
His recent work Ekasi Lam – An Ode to Kwaito premiered at the 2019 National Arts Festival.
Xonti started playing music at the age of ten but it was only when he turned thirteen that he fell in love with the saxophone and continued playing classical saxophone until he got his UNISA Grade 8 Distinction (2006).
His introduction to jazz came at the age of sixteen (2004) when he joined the Cape Town based band, The Little Giants, led by George Werner and the late Ezra Ngcukana.
That same year, he was selected to be a part of the School’s Big Band at the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival in Grahamstown.
Later in 2007, he was also selected for the National Youth Band for the first time under the leadership of Dr. Andrew Lilley.
He has since played with an array of highly acclaimed musicians, namely Jimmy Dludlu, Victor Ntoni, Lira, Hugh Masekela, Judith Sephuma, Dj Christos, DJ Vinny DA Vinci, Herbie Tsoaeli, Feya Faku, Freshlyground, Neo Muyanga, Bheki Khoza, Barney Wailer from Bob Marley and the Wailers, Mike Campbell and the UCT Big Band, Abdullah Ibrahim and The Cape Town Jazz Orchestra, CODA, Kyle Shepherd, Bokani Dyer, Marcus Wyatt, Goodluck, Lwanda Gogwana, The International Youth Jazz Band, Simphiwe Dana, Andile Yenana and also as bandleader in his own jazz project.